Published August 25, 2012 - 12:30pm
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SDS will be looking at superlatives for many different positions as we head into season. We end with the defensive backs.
The SEC is known for its lockdown corners and smashing safeties. Look no further than last year when Dre Kirkpatrick, Mark Barron and Morris Claiborne disrupted nearly every offense and receiver they came in contact with.
This year, there are still some great guys in the secondary as well, led by Eric Reid, Johnathan Banks and others.
Let’s take a stab at the defensive back superlatives:
Best Safety: Eric Reid, LSU (JR)
There is not another better-looking safety prospect in the SEC, or the country, than Eric Reid. Reid will be the lone returning starter on the backend for LSU this season. He packs quite the punch in his 208-pound body. He was tied for the team lead in tackles with 76 a year ago, and he’s most known for his play of the game where he took the ball away from the Alabama tight end at the one-yard line. Reid is a stud.
Best Corner: Johnathan Banks, Mississippi State (SR)
This four-year starter steps into the spotlight as the best cover corner in the SEC this season. Banks has speed but even better size (6-2, 185) and ball skills. He has a total of 12 picks in his career, with five of them coming just last season. Expect Banks and Corey Broomfield to be quite the duo in the defensive backfield for MSU.
Highest Ceiling: Dee Milliner, Alabama (JR)
Dee Milliner is not a returning starter for the Tide, but he has a ton of playing experience, starting as a true freshman and carrying over to last year. He is a fantastic athlete and corner, and he should really excel under Nick Saban. Milliner is poised to make the kind of jump that Dre Kirkpatrick made from his sophomore to junior season.
Best Leader: Robert Lester, Alabama (SR)
Robert Lester is the lone retuner in the Alabama secondary that lost three starters. Lester picked off an SEC-best eight interceptions in 2010, and he can play in the secondary in coverage and play near the line of scrimmage in running situations. Lester’s leadership is so valuable this season with so much inexperience around him.
Most to Prove: Matt Elam, Florida (JR)
Matt Elam rarely gets the respect he deserves. He’s an NFL-ready safety who was Florida’s best defensive player a year ago. He has great closing speed and is a ball hawk. He looks to cement his name into the forefront of SEC defensive backs this season.
Best Senior: Bacarri Rambo, Georgia (SR)
Bacarri Rambo announced his presence with authority last season as one of the top defensive breakout players in the SEC. He led the SEC and was second nationally with eight interceptions. He could have jumped ship to the NFL, but he returned to Athens to give Georgia one more run at an SEC Championship.
Most Irreplaceable: DJ Swearinger, South Carolina (SR)
DJ Swearinger is a great player anyway, but he’s ultra important to a team that has three new defensive backs. Fellow senior Akeem Auguste had surgery this fall camp and is out 4-6 weeks, leaving Swearinger as the lone returner in the secondary. The Gamecocks’ secondary is suspect as it is, but if they lose Swearinger, it will get a whole lot worse.
Ready to Break Out: Tharold Simon, LSU (JR)
Next in line to be an LSU All-American at corner is Tharold Simon. Simon would have lined up opposite Tyrann Mathieu this season, while replacing Morris Claiborne, but he will be lining up alongside freshman Jalen Mills now instead. Simon is the next breakout player at corner in the SEC. This kid is very talented and will be a household name by year’s end.
Most Versatile: Corey Broomfield, Mississippi State (SR)
Corey Broomfield has played corner his entire career at MSU, and he has done a great job at it, too. However, Dan Mullen asked Broomfield to feel out safety at the emergence of corner Darius Slay this fall camp. Broomfield says he likes safety better because he gets to talk more trash.
Fastest: Branden Smith, Georgia (SR)
You want a burner in the SEC? Branden Smith is that guy. Yeah, he’s not the best corner, as he’s proven that over his three-year career, but the guy can run. And he can take end-arounds or kickoffs back for a touchdown. Denard Robinson wants to race Usain Bolt? Smith would torch him.
Up and Comer: Marcus Roberson, Florida (SO)
There are many up-and-coming corners in the SEC, but Marcus Roberson is the best out of all of them. Roberson was injured for some games last year, but he’s back to lock down one half of the field for Florida. Roberson has great size at 6-0, 180-pounds with long arms and great hips. Watch this kid play one Saturday.